We need to consider the developing ‘solar system’ that allows us to increasingly rely on this source of energy; the ecosystem that generates, stores, manages and controls energy in both domestic and commercial applications.
Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world. Large-scale solar electricity is rapidly becoming the norm and more than two million Australian households currently have a solar system on their rooftop. Sunbelt states of South Australia and Queensland are nearing rates of one-third of total homes, or about twice that of NSW – where state support has largely been removed – and Victoria. Commercial applications are now offering a reasonable payback time, and for many organisations the social responsibility impact is becoming more important to their philosophy.
We understand solar PV panels and how to sell them, the next area for developing opportunities is Storage, Management and Control. Only about 12% of the Australian solar installations have batteries and as energy costs increase so will the demand for storage of the power generated on our rooves.
Adding storage to an existing solar array is not always an easy, plug-and-play process. It could be if the solar array was installed storage-ready, but with the rapid advancements of solar-plus-storage in the last few years, it’s unlikely many legacy solar systems can easily adapt to battery connection. Make sure you understand what you are working with before you quote the job:
- The inverter used on an existing solar array will dictate how you add batteries. AC-coupled systems require an additional, separate inverter to charge the batteries. DC-coupled systems use a charge controller or other DC-DC converter to feed PV power to the batteries and then through one inverter for grid use.
- To accommodate energy storage, inverters must have frequency control capability—no matter if the system is AC- or DC-coupled. If older inverters can-not frequency shift, they should be replaced to add batteries.
- If the inverter is approaching its warrantied lifespan, it’s a good idea to upgrade because of optimal ambient temperature ranges, some battery chemistries are required to be installed indoors to control their temperatures. Battery warranties could be quickly voided if the storage system exceeds the recommended temperature range.
- The most important area of focus is the motivation behind why a customer is exploring storage. Is storage a solution for emergency power? Or to store excess energy produced by solar during the day, so that it can be used in the evening when the sun goes down? Make sure you understand what they really want to achieve.
- The existing solar system’s ownership is important. If the customer has full ownership of the system updates are easy, while leased systems may have restrictions on adding certain equipment.
Managing loads to deliver power where and when required can make a significant difference to the benefits of the solar system, especially in commer-cial environments. Inverters are becoming smarter as the technology develops so they can help man-age load and usage. They will read what is going on inside the house or building and apply battery loads and circuits depending on requirements. Some battery solutions are also smart enough to do some of this analysis work, and appliances are becoming better engineered so may also require different power levels for peak loads or usage.
Control is about what the user, building manager or homeowner does internally to manage power usage. There are many apps that can turn lights and air-conditioning on or off as you approach the house. Room settings for lighting and music all affect power usage. It’s getting more available and affordable so more of your customers will be asking about the alternatives and the requirements to create a full solution with flexibility for innovation as these tools continue to develop. In the commercial environment, more control brings cost and time reductions with the convenience of remote control and increased analysis tools for a real understanding of how energy efficiency can be increased.
Key differences between domestic and commercial solar projects
C&I solar projects take longer, partially because of permitting complexity and a lot more review involved from the local councils.
The commercial solar sales process is longer as more people are involved with more approvals and compliance hurdles to get to an agreed project for execution.
Commercial projects are more technical. It’s very important to have a really good engineering firm or in-house designer that’s very familiar with commercial projects to help streamline the pro-cess and help speed up the permitting process by reducing the need for revisions. This includes a very good site survey and making sure you’ve accurately answered every question.
Communication with customers differs from residential solar projects. Because commercial projects span over a much longer time, it’s important to establish clear expectations at the outset for the length of time the project will take, document conversations and provide regular updates agreements throughout the project.
Thank you to Solar Power World